The monastery of Clonmacnoise is another major tourist destination in the midlands. Established by St Ciaran in 544, the site is of huge historical and ecclesiastical significance.

Founded in 544ad by St. Ciarán Clonmacnoise is one of the most highly regarded ancient monastic sites of its kind in Europe, three high crosses, two round towers and hundreds of Early Christian cross slabs make the monastic ruins at Clonmacnoise the most extensive of their kind in Ireland. The site is of huge historical and ecclesiastical significance and still houses the remains of a 13th Century castle.

Its strategic location on the banks of the River Shannon meant that it also had profound political importance. It was associated with the Kings of Connaught until the ninth century and the Kings of Tara thereafter. Many of the High Kings from both provinces are buried on site. The monastery was frequently attacked by Irish, Viking and Norman raiders throughout the ages due to the wealth generated by the community. The monastery grew to become the most famous in Ireland and was recognised as an important seat of learning throughout Europe in the middle ages.

This stone was found at Clonmacnoise and is now on exhibit at the monastic ruins in County Offaly, Ireland. The centre of the cross is dominated by a design known as a “Celtic triskele.” The triskele is especially characteristic of the art of a Celtic society which predates Celtic Ireland the continental La Tène culture of the European Iron Age.

Often seen in Irish art is a triskele of three conjoined spirals this symbol was often used in the artwork of the early Irish Christians, and is symbolic of the Holy Trinity. Considered a Celtic symbol this type of triskele is in fact pre-Celtic; the triple spiral motif is a Neolithic symbol in Western Europe and is found carved into the rock of a stone lozenge near the main entrance of Newgrange the prehistoric burial monument in Donore, County Meath, Newgrange was built around 3200 BCE, well before the arrival of the Celts in Ireland.

Clonmacnoise is presently managed by the Office of Public Works and an impressive interpretive centre offers guided tours of the site and indoor exhibits exploring the history of the monastery and the area. There are a number of churches and round towers to explore and also the iconic stone crosses which are more than 1000 years old. The importance of the site as a religious monument was expressed by Pope John Paul when he visited in 1979.

Clonmacnoise is located 25 miles or 40 kilometres away from Ballymahon town by road via Athlone to Shannonbridge in Co Offaly.